CAWCD Clears Path for Arizona Drought Contingency Implementation Plan — @CAPArizona

Central Arizona Project map via Mountain Town News

Here’s the release from the Central Arizona Project (DeEtte Person):

At its Dec. 6 board meeting, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) took action that provides a clear path forward for the interstate (Lower Colorado River Basin) and intrastate (Arizona) drought contingency plans. This action allows Arizona to attend next week’s Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) meeting with the AZDCP Implementation Plan in hand and sets the stage for the Arizona legislature to consider action when it reconvenes in early 2019.

The CAWCD board took the following actions:

  • Approved the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan and directed the CAWCD board president to execute the appropriate agreements
  • Supported key elements of the AZDCP Implementation Plan presented at the Nov. 29 AZDCP Steering Committee meeting
  • “After a comprehensive and transparent process, I’m proud to say the board has taken these actions today,” says Lisa Atkins, CAWCD board president. “This plan essentially ‘shares the pain’ amongst those who must bear the brunt of shortage. This reflects how Arizonans typically work together to address water challenges and opportunities – through a collaborative process involving many parties and a tremendous amount of complexity and flexibility. This was no small feat and involved literally hundreds – if not thousands – of hours on the part of many, including the board and our own Central Arizona Project staff, the Arizona Department of Water Resources and countless stakeholder groups. To all those involved, we extend our thanks.”

    Here’s the exact language approved by the CAWCD board:

  • Approve the Lower Basin DCP Agreement and the Companion Agreement and to authorize the Board President or her designee to execute the appropriate agreements, provided those documents protect the board’s capacity to enforce all parties’ obligations under the DCP in court if necessary.
  • Support the key provisions of the AZDCP Implementation Plan presented at the Nov.29th Steering Committee meeting, recognizing the need for additional discussions to address remaining issues, including certainty for the CAP Ag Pool and the Developer Pool, and subject to approval by the Board of agreements necessary to implement CAWCD’s commitments to the AZ DCP Implementation Plan and consistent with the Board’s action taken at the November 15, 2018 special Board meeting.
  • To learn more about Arizona’s Drought Contingency Planning process, visit CAP’s website. Further details will continue to be shared there regarding next steps.

    #ColoradoRiver: @CAPArizona signals support for lower basin #Drought Contingency Plan #COriver #aridification

    Colorado River Basin. Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

    From ArizonaCentral.com (Ian James):

    Board members of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District passed a motion saying they support “key provisions” of the plan, which they’re calling Arizona’s implementation plan for the proposed three-state Drought Contingency Plan.

    There are still some details yet to be worked out.

    In the motion, the board members said they recognize “the need for additional discussions to address remaining issues.”

    But the vote appears to indicate that the main players in Arizona’s long and difficult negotiations are pretty much on the same page about what an agreement would look like. And with this vote behind them, Arizona water officials will now have the framework of a state plan in hand as they join other water managers from across the West in Las Vegas next week for the annual Colorado River Water Users Association conference, where federal officials have said they hope to wrap up a Drought Contingency Plan.

    The plan still will have to be approved by Arizona’s Legislature in January once some additional details have been ironed out.

    Those details include ensuring what the CAP board described in its motion as “certainty” for two groups of water users known as the ag pool and the developer pool. That phrase referred in part to securing funding to help Pinal County farmers pay for new wells and infrastructure to start pumping more groundwater to make up for cuts in Colorado River water.

    #Arizona Gov. Ducey plans to ask for $30 million for Lower Basin #Drought Contingency Plan

    View of Lake Mead and Hoover dam. Photo credit BBC.

    From KJZZ (Bret Jaspers):

    The news came as the heads of two big water agencies, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD), presented a plan to water stakeholders in hopes of pushing the group closer to a resolution.

    Arizona needs to finalize an internal drought deal so that it can enter into an agreement with the other Colorado River Basin states…

    “I fully endorse this plan, the state endorses this plan,” said ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke at Thursday’s meeting of the DCP Steering Committee. He said Ducey himself will “advocate strongly” to make sure the $30 million budget request gets passed.

    Buschatzke also acknowledged several items still need to be worked out.

    The plan builds on an earlier, three-year proposal from the CAWCD board put forward in case something longer could not garner support.

    This new proposal takes the state through 2026, when an existing set of drought guidelines expires and will need to be renegotiated. The plan now on the table provides specific amounts of water and money to “mitigate” Pinal County farmers, cities, and Native American tribes for water they will lose under the DCP, although the mitigation volumes will decrease as the plan goes on.

    “This is a bridge from having no shortage to having one, and then the new future — whatever that might be — after 2026,” said Ted Cooke, general manager of the CAWCD. “The mitigation program will be done by the end of 2025.”

    The water for mitigation will largely come from 400,000 acre-feet of CAWCD water currently being stored in Lake Mead. Many stakeholders say using that for mitigation is against the intention of the drought plan in the first place. But Thursday’s framework creates a “Lake Mead Offset” component to make up for those drawdowns.

    Money for the plan includes:

  • $60 million from the CAWCD.
  • $30 million state appropriation proposed in Gov. Ducey’s upcoming budget.
  • $8 million from a collection of non-governmental organizations in the Water Funders Initiative.
  • $20 million to $30 million in federal money already required under existing programs.
  • An unspecified amount of money, from both federal coffers and Central Arizona irrigation districts, for a groundwater infrastructure program for Pinal County farmers.
  • But Rob Anderson, with the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, said, “we think that economic development is an important message and that having nothing in there for developer mitigation is an issue.”

    He noted a separate but related water agreement between CAWCD’s groundwater replenishment arm and the Gila River Indian Community appears stalled without approval from the Gila River council. That agreement is important to homebuilders and developers, as more water for replenishment means groundwater can be pumped out by new housing developments. Gila River Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis told stakeholders at Thursday’s meeting that he would work hard to get that agreement passed if the new DCP proposal moves forward.

    Paul Orme, who represents Pinal County irrigation districts, was concerned about the lack of firm funding for groundwater infrastructure projects, among other things.

    #ColoradoRiver: Lower basin drought contingency plan update #COriver #aridification

    Upper Lake Mead dawn patrol. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Tucson.com (Tony Davis):

    The Drought Contingency Plan proposal approved by the Central Arizona Project board last week is a less-ambitious, less-expensive and shorter-term blueprint than those proposed earlier by water agencies and the Gila River Indian Community.

    It would help farmers pay for new wells and more water efficiency, and provide more water for tribes than they’d get under the drought plan’s earlier versions.

    “It’s a bridge, a place to start. This plan is only for three years and does not rely on firm funding from the state and from the Bureau of Reclamation,” CAP General Manager Ted Cooke told a packed house at the board meeting Thursday.

    “We want to come up with a plan that this board by itself can approve — a plan we believe would work.”

    Coming as some officials are raising alarms about the lack of progress toward a plan, this proposal was opposed by the same parties that opposed earlier plans — tribes and cities. It was supported by farmers and their allies, who have also supported some of the earlier plans.

    At the same time, representatives of city water agencies and Indian tribes who oppose this plan said they’re pleased that CAP officials and other backers are open to further negotiations and don’t seem as hardened in their positions…

    Here are specifics of the latest proposal, approved unanimously by the board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District. The board governs the CAP, the 50-year-old, $4 billion canal project that brings Colorado River water to Central and Southern Arizona:

  • Pinal County farmers would get what they see as “full mitigation” of previously proposed cuts: 595,000 acre-feet of water over seven years through 2026. The original drought plan would have given them no water once shortages began.
  • The proposal also would provide some relief to cuts planned during early shortages to the Gila River tribal community and to many Phoenix-area cities. Their class of water users would get 88,000 acre-feet a year of mitigation, about three-fourths of what was going to be cut.
  • The CAP would spend up to $60 million to buy up to 250,000 acre-feet for mitigation.
  • Project officials didn’t spell out where they’d buy the water. One likely source is the Colorado River Indian Tribes, based in Parker along the river. The tribes on Nov. 9 wrote a letter offering to provide the state and CAP 150,000 acre-feet over three years starting in 2020, at a cost of $250 an acre-foot. That’s far more than what cities and other CAP users are paying today for the river water.

  • The CAP will support programs to build wells and other groundwater infrastructure and to improve irrigation efficiency for Pinal County farms.
  • The drought plan steering committee will get the plan for additional negotiations.
  • “It’s not the only plan that can work. It’s not a take-it-or-leave-it plan,” CAP’s Cooke said. “However, we need to be judicious as to what features we have and what time we add to the process.”

    Managing water in the arid West — The Moab Sun News #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Prior to 1921 this section of the Colorado River at Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah was known as the Grand River. Mike Nielsen – Dead Horse Point State Park

    From The Moab Sun News (Sarah Stock):

    The world of Colorado River management is in flux…

    What have the 2007 DCPs meant for reservoir levels? Basically, rather than Lake Mead dropping below the point where it can generate power and pump water to Las Vegas, the water level has been boosted with releases from Lake Powell. In effect, both reservoirs diminish together more slowly. This was meant as a temporary fix to get us through the tough times, but with the new reality that comes with climate change, this temporary fix won’t work for much longer…

    The Lower Basin plan should address some of the “structural deficit,” but at a cost to some current water users in all three states.

    The Upper Basin Drought Contingency Plan does three things: establishes a method for “banking” conserved water each year; cloud seeding (not a conspiracy theory); and last but not least, joint operations of the Colorado River Storage Project reservoirs (CRSP).

    The water-banking scenario works with what water wonks call “demand management,” and there is a big debate about how that will play out. In the dream-world scenario, farmers fallow fields, temporarily — with compensation — and the water will flow down to Lake Powell without being used by anyone else and will be saved for a year when there is a shortage of water. The catch is that it will take years to develop a system of shepherding, accounting and paying for the saved water.

    The joint operations of the CRSP reservoirs is what will carry the bulk of importance in the next few years. The new DCP outlines a system where Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Navajo Reservoir and the Aspinall Unit in Colorado can all be used to prop up Lake Powell water levels, which in turn prop up Lake Mead water levels.

    Once again, this is not a permanent fix. We might have a few years operating under this scenario, but that’s all the Upper Colorado River Commission is banking on. These drought agreements will lapse in 2026 (if they make it that far). Then new ones will have to be established.

    The Gila River Indian Community lists defense of their landmark water deal as the #1 priority in negotiation of a lower basin #drought contingency plan

    Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

    From Arizona Central (Ian James):

    The Gila River Indian Community is entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal. Much of the water flows to the reservation, where it helps irrigate about 36,000 acres of farmland planted with crops including wheat, sorghum, alfalfa, cotton and corn.

    Because it holds this large water entitlement, the community has become a key player in efforts to unblock stalled negotiations in Arizona among state agencies, cities, irrigation districts and tribes on a plan to take less water from the dwindling Colorado River.

    If Arizona manages to reach a deal — and it’s unclear whether it will — the involvement of the community and its leader, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, is likely to play a critical part in the agreement.

    Lewis has been deeply involved in the talks, offering to help while also taking a strong stance against any proposal that would undermine the Gila River community’s historic water settlement, which his late father, Rodney Lewis, helped win in 2004 after a decades-long legal fight.

    The governor said he thinks the parties are close to clinching an agreement on the proposed Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. But he also said there are several principles he won’t compromise on, including defending his community’s hard-won water rights.

    “Water settlements, to us they are sacrosanct. Water settlements have to be preserved,” Lewis told The Arizona Republic in an interview. “Those can’t be gutted.”

    For Lewis, the drive to defend his community’s water settlement is a personal issue and one that’s bound up in the long history of how Arizona tribes saw their water taken away starting more than 150 years ago.

    The Gila River Indian Community includes people from two groups, the Akimel O’odham and the Pee-Posh, and has about 23,000 members, about 15,000 of whom live on the reservation south of Phoenix.

    The O’odham’s ancient ancestors, the Huhugam, created a thriving agricultural civilization in the desert centuries before the arrival of non-native settlers in Arizona…

    Lewis’ father, as attorney for the Gila River Indian Community, fought for years to win back their water. And in 2004, the community finally secured its water rights as part of the Arizona Water Settlements Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush. Rodney Lewis died in April at age 77…

    “We have fought to regain our water settlement, our water rights. That historic struggle has really shaped our community, to where we do not take for granted any drop of our water, what we call in our language the O’odham language ‘shudag’ – water is life,” he said. “We have survived, we have endured. But we understand as a people all too well when water, that precious resource, is taken away from us.”

    […]

    He said it’s clear that all water users will have to deal with an increasingly limited supply of water.

    A look at renegotiating the #ColoradoRiver Compact

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Colorado River water managers have plenty to argue about. But there’s one thing on which nearly everyone who relies on the southwestern river can agree. The foundational document that divvies up the water — the Colorado River Compact — has some big flaws.

    Discussion on how to fix the compact’s problems is where that consensus breaks down, often with the invocation of one word: renegotiation…

    The R-word inflames decades-old tensions in the watershed, Kenney says, among states in the Upper Basin, including Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah, and those in the Lower Basin, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada.

    “I think a lot of the parties think it’s scary simply because it’s a little scary to negotiate when not all the parties have the same political power,” Kenney says.

    That power imbalance is what initially brought political leaders within the watershed to come to the table back in 1922 when the Colorado River Compact was signed. The desert southwest was beginning to growing rapidly and rather than acquiesce all of the river’s flow to the sprawling cities and cropland of southern California, water managers felt it was in their best interest to come to an agreement to divvy up the river amongst themselves. The alternative path was one of conflict and litigation…

    Conventional wisdom about the compact’s math goes something like this: When water managers sat down to divide the river among themselves they used the data available to them to figure out how much water they were working with. The period they looked at was uncharacteristically wet. Soon after the compact’s signing the river returned to its more arid state, and right from the start the compact mismatched with reality. More water existed on paper than in the river, creating a gap between water supplies and demands that continues to today. So the story goes: it was no one’s fault, just a historical fluke.

    John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s water resources program, says that conventional wisdom is wrong. Allocating more water was the politically expedient thing to do. He’s finishing a book with Colorado River expert Eric Kuhn on what water managers of the 1920s knew about the river’s flow and when they knew it. Scientists with the highly respected U.S. Geological Survey were crowing about the inflated numbers even before the river compact was finished.

    “They all concluded the same thing, ‘You’re basing this on an unusually wet period. You need to take into account dry periods. There is really less water than you think,’” Fleck says. “And all those scientific experts were ignored.”

    Today, there’s broad consensus about the compact’s math problems. While scoffed at a decade ago, McCain’s proposal to renegotiate has support among some environmentalists, like Jen Pelz, wild rivers program director with WildEarth Guardians. She says the only way to fix the river’s fundamental supply-demand problem is to go back to the beginning.

    “It’s just like curing illness, right? You have to get at the source,” she says.

    Old agreements among states to manage water in the West are out of date and don’t reflect modern realities, like climate change or broader environmental concerns, Pelz says. Compacts for the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers allocate every drop for human use. There’s value in leaving water in rivers for recreation and ecosystem health, she says.

    “I think that is a huge problem and I think that we don’t want to have that conversation because it’s hard,” Pelz says.

    The river’s foundational problems are front of mind these days as Colorado River water managers are attempting to finalize new agreements called Drought Contingency Plans, designed to boost declining reservoirs and cut back on water use throughout the watershed. Pelz says the plans don’t go far enough.

    “It’s all like shuffling chairs on the Titanic,” she says. “The ship is sinking still. And if you shuffle all those chairs around and you make it look pretty it’s still not going to make any difference, like the boat is still sinking.”

    To ever get to a point where the Colorado River Compact was opened back up, you’d need the support of people like Pat Tyrrell, the Wyoming state engineer. And he is not interested.

    “No, I would never advocate going back to the compact,” Tyrrell says.

    There’s a work around, he says. Rather than renegotiate the original document, water managers like him come up with new agreements that build on it, and address some of the compact’s bad math. But, he says, it would be unwise to throw the whole thing out.

    “If it were to go away there would be a free for all,” Tyrrell says. “There is no magic second compact sitting in the wings behind it, and the battle between Arizona, California, and Nevada against us four upper basin states would be brought anew.”